by Jeremy Wyatt
At the tail end of a journey of more than 3,300 nautical males, Class 40 Vaquita has taken line honours in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) 2012, having sailed from Gran Canaria in just over twelve days; a truly magnificent performance for a 40 footer. Vaquita looked superb as she blasted across the finish line at 14 knots with the crew pushing the boat as hard as ever in front of the local and international media in Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia, today (07 December). The Austrian crew of six crossed the line at 10:22 local (14:22UTC) on 7 December 2012, giving them an elapsed time of 12 days, 1:37hours.
Vaquita, Akilaria 40 (Austria) claims line honours in the 2012 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC)
Once across the line and sails down, the entire crew dived into the warm Caribbean water to celebrate their success, to the delight of those cheering from the spectator boats alongside.
Vaquita, skippered by Austrian Andreas Hanakamp, former Team Russia Volvo Ocean Race skipper and two time Olympic star, sailed an extreme northerly route from Gran Canaria, clocking speeds of up to 25 knots during the crossing. This is Andreas' third consecutive year racing in the ARC, each time favouring the northerly passage, and each time paying off.
Speaking to him on the dock with a cold rum punch in hand, he explained how they had a great trip, and are happy to be in Saint Lucia again. This will be the final Atlantic crossing Andreas sails on board Vaquita, as he has plans to build a new Class 40' and will put Vaquita up for sale. When talking about the northerly passage taken, he explained how it makes perfect sense for him to take the route they did. He feels the northern route is the more logical with the availability of modern weather and routing information.
Vaquita has not only crossed the finish line first, but has done so in style, with the next arrival, Swan 80' Berenice approximately 20 hours behind. This does not mean that Vaquita is guaranteed to win overall on corrected time, as she holds the highest handicap in the RORC IRC Racing Division.
Meanwhile., the cruisers, which make up the majority of the ARC fleet are getting some very mixed weather on the rhumb line route where the wind has be rather contrary ... too much at the beginning and now not enough! Logs in week one were full of tales of watches spent wearing foul-weather jackets, cold nights and rain; lots of rain.
The winds have abating and calmer seas are now the norm, especially for those boats leading the fleet. On Surfing Petrel, one of the racing fleet, Miranda wrote 'Not an isobar to be seen for hundreds of miles on the synoptic chart. Light and fluky breeze on the menu for the next day or so. There are a few large clouds around, but we have been left in peace so far today. It's quiet in the midday heat, the crew keeping movement to a minimum, and occupying patches of shade.'
Whilst the racers are becoming frustrated, for the cruisers the lighter conditions mean an easier and more relaxing life at sea. Dan Bower, captain of Skyelark of London wrote in his blog 'We have just set full main and cutter rig, all plain sail, for the first time since we set off, and the first time we have seen true wind under 20kts. The first week saw average F6-7, 25-30kts wind and we had several spells of 30-35kts, F8; two-reefs in the main by day, and three at night. Whilst not uncomfortable, we all welcome the smoother seas and the ability to move about with just a steadying hand instead of having to lurch around with a vice-like grip on something solid.'
As can be expected, strong winds, particularly early on in the passage often result in breakages aboard the fleet. Farr 585CC Spock has had to retire to the Cape Verde islands following a dismasting; all now safe ashore in Mindello. Dag Rorslett and his Norwegian crew of four aboard Modus Vivendi, have had a tough few days coping with a lost rudder. For the past four days, the crew have been steering the 50ft steel yacht using just their small Hydrovane rudder and balancing sails. Not an easy feat in F6 and 4m swells constantly pushing the boat sideways The boat and crew are now all safely docked in Mindello. To date, eight boats have retired from this year's ARC, mainly due to mechanical problems.
Atlantic Rally for Cruisers website